Day 179 of 365 Days of Writing Prompts: Start with the line “Jenny is no Jennifer.”
Erin: Jenny is no Jennifer. When my sister came back she insisted we start to call her the shortened version of her name. As I learned to stop slipping up with my words I realized her new friends had not only changed her name, but also her.
Shannon: “Jenny is no Jennifer.” Kaitlyn scoffed her opinion to the rest of the group as I watched her drag her pen over the candidate’s name.
I looked around to the rest of the group waiting for someone to disagree, but the room was silent.
“I’m sorry, maybe I missed something, but I have her listed in my top three. What’s wrong wit her?”
Again the group was silent as Kaitlyn let out a pity-filled sigh that she had to explain it out loud. She flashed me a fake smile before explaining as vaguely as possible. “She doesn’t have the look.” In other words she was bigger than the rest of the actresses auditioning. Not any less pretty or captivating, just a different size.
I felt my face heat up in anger at how easily they threw her away because of their bias. “I highly suggest you all reconsider. Otherwise, we need more candidates because I’m not settling for anything less than what we’ve seen from her.” The vote had to be unanimous, and I wasn’t afraid to challenge Kaitlyn’s rein.
Who are your Jen’s?
“Jenny is no Jennifer,” I heard my roommate whispering to herself in the darkness, sniffling loudly. Jenny’s quiet sobs were enough to completely rouse me from my otherwise fitful sleep, but I didn’t want to interrupt if she wanted to be left alone. So, instead, I gradually got out of bed and flicked on my lamp, pretending to have not heard her. “Hey, Sandy, you can’t sleep either?” she asked, rolling over so her tear-stained face was bathed in the cold light.
Stretching in my oversized sweater, I turned to her with tired eyes, “Nah, I need some water. You want anything?” I didn’t want to press, but I planned on asking her if there was anything wrong when I got back; I needed a minute to wake up, though. As I rifled through my desk drawer in search of a water bottle, Jenny yawned loudly started searching her own items.
“Yeah, actually, that’d be great. Thanks,” her voice quivered slightly as she handed me the metal container. I nodded, picked up my key, fumbled with the door and stepped out into the freezing hallway.
As I strutted quietly across the carpet to the water fountain, I tap-danced as my bare feet sucked in the icy cold of the flimsy flooring. Swiftly filling up both our bottles, I sprinted back to our room, locked the door and passed Jenny hers without a word. She was sitting cross-legged on her bed with a tissue crumpled in her hand. It was a few minutes before I broke the lengthening silence with my strained voice.
“How’re you doing, Jenny?” I asked, looking her in the weary eye as the frigid air filled my lungs.
A few seconds went by before she answered, still sniffling slightly, “I guess you heard me muttering to myself, eh?” When I nodded, she continued with her explanation in a small voice, “Well, I just don’t know how to deal with Nira leaving; we came here together from a small town and I’ve never been this far from home without anyone else.” Glancing up, she saw the half-hidden pain in my eyes and added, “I didn’t mean it like that; we’ve just always done things together and I don’t know how to stay here without her.” It wasn’t uncommon, this week, for students to fall apart like this because someone had left the school unexpectedly.
There was a mass exodus, which included most of the Dryad Society’s charges, last week and since then the campus has felt a dark foreboding settle upon the soft grasses and pristine walkways. Running through the remaining students like a terrible cold, were rumours of suspicious deaths and evil plots to destroy more lives; I think both societies preferred the outlandish theories that could be overheard in the corners of the library to the murky truth. Of course, classes still went on, and the staff acted as though nothing was out of the ordinary, other than a couple of teachers I could swear were sending Morse code signals through blinking their eyes. Everyone who’d been stricken with the yellow-eyed illness had stayed put, though I think a few had the spell reversed by Elsa and slipped onto the ferry with the other Dryads.
Unfortunately for Jenny, her best friend in the whole world was on that ferry headed home without her. I’d hoped that the Dryad Society would have some kind of plan for the mortal people that would inevitably be left behind, but nothing had come to fruition, so those of us who were left would just have to figure something out. “I know it’s really hard being alone, man do I know, but you’re a really strong person; I know you can get through it,” I murmured across the room, grinning a bit to test the waters. When I got a subtle smile back, I frowned slightly and asked in a croaking voice, “What did you mean by you ‘being no Jennifer’?”
The silence was back with a vengeance as she considered her answer thoroughly. “Well, in my town there were lots of girls named Jenny, so I always went by my full name, Jennifer,” she began, sighing deeply as she took a long sip of water. “I’m a really, really nervous and totally not outgoing person. I was always afraid of everything and I never stood up for myself or did anything extraordinary,” continuing in a drawling, ashamed tone, she put the bottle down and looked at me. With more force behind her words, she concluded, “Up until coming here, to a school I didn’t know anyone else at, that’s hours and hours away from my home. This is my great breakthrough; coming here. So, I gave myself a new name and decided I was gonna be different than I was before.”
I nodded silently at her, secretly wishing I had that kind of strength; I’d sent word back to my siblings that they could stay here, but when all the society stuff had gone on I’d told them to stay put. If I’d been stronger, I would have protected them here, where they would have a roof over their heads, but I wasn’t sure enough of my own strength. Physically, I could hold off anything or anyone, but I was just a scared young woman sitting idly as the people around her did battle to unknown ends.
“I understand. I left my siblings to come here because I didn’t think I could look after them and go to school at the same time. But, when I got here, I realized that people don’t even notice that I don’t have fancy clothes or an endless supply of food. I became someone else, someone normal, when I got here,” I spoke slowly, being careful what, exactly I said. Oh, how I wanted to tell Jenny the truth about Nira being able to control water and prove that I had the strength of more than ten men, but I couldn’t. Just so she’d know Nira hadn’t abandoned her for no good reason, wasn’t a good enough reason to bring any of it up. So I let Jenny believe what she may as the time went by and the sun rose over the ancient building.
“Jenny is no Jennifer.”
Everyone looks at Finn. He looks back.
“‘Jenny is no Jennifer’?” Nikki asks.
Finn shrugs, “Haven’t you ever heard that saying? I heard it all the time growing up. My grandparents said it.”
“…And what does it mean?”
“Seriously?” Finn yells. August crosses his arms, waiting. Everyone else shares looks, to confirm they weren’t the only ones confused.
“It means that the person in question isn’t mature,” Finn explains, “you know, ‘Jenny’ is a kid’s name, and ‘Jennifer’ sounds more like an adult.”
There’s quiet before everyone turns to do their only thing in a different room. Finn throws his hands up in the air.
“Oh come on! It’s not that bad of a saying!” He stops and thinks to himself, “I think my estranged aunt’s name was Jenny… Maybe that’s where it’s from….”